THE CONTACT ENERGY PEDAL FOR PRIZES, LAKE TAUPO CYCLE CHALLENGE
Oliver: The Contact Energy Pedal for Prizes installation was an incredibly fun and quirky project to co-create. One Friday a few weeks ago, I received a phone call from the Rob Appierdo, head of Storybox asking if there was enough time over a week to design, develop, test and debug an Interactive Installation to be installed and working the following weekend for the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. Puck Murphy from Perceptual Engineering in Auckland, NZ - another big TouchDesigner advocate - had been thrown the brief last minute whilst having other deadlines running in parallel and needed another TouchDesigner user to collaborate in order to get the project out the door. Being at opposite ends of the North Island of NZ, it was going to be a challenge.
The concept for the project was quite simple: The client wanted a bike in front of a big screen, and on the screen a carnival style winning wheel of fortune that was spun when the user gave the bike a pedal. When the wheel stopped spinning, whatever segment the clicker was pointing to in turn rewarded the rider with a prize.
Puck: When the project first came in there was 7 days until launch and numerous unknown variables to getting to a successful result. Realising cloning myself wasn't possible I had to act quickly to get a crew together who were crazy enough to take on the project. Firstly I approached Rob Appierdo and Oliver Ellmers at Storybox, as Oliver is the only other TouchDesigner operator I know of in New Zealand! (Aside: def keen to know if there's anyone else out there?). After a quick discussion we split the TouchDesigner project into UI design and user generated data flow from the bike and set about getting a prototype up and running.
With Oliver tearing ahead with UI I decided to recruit some friends I had been working with on another interactive art project to help with the electrical and engineering of the bike rig. Due the tight turn around multiple paths/ideas were attacked at once and after a few days we had settled on a dynamo voltage to audio stream as our data path, this from Andy Cave who headed the engineering team:
Andy: The bicycle build was in the end a very simple process. A cheap Chinese dynamo which output a 6v 3w AC signal was attached to the cycle stand, with very little engineering required. The testing meant that the oldest guy on the team was tortured for a few days while the young nerds watched, tinkered and giggled. In the end it was a triumph of old school cycle tech, Nana's garage and TouchDesigner that brought this simple but quite magical event to life.
Oliver: Puck's end was by far the more complicated of the two. The first and most obvious problem to solve was the data. How the hell do we get a data stream into TouchDesigner? The guys came up with a relatively genius solution! They attached a dynamo that was being spun by the rollers the bike was mounted on, and when the rollers spun the dynamo, it output a hertz signal. The hertz signal was then fed into a USB soundcard, then fed straight into the Audio In CHOP which gave us a pitch signal. A little bit of magic massaging the right curve out of the data, and we had something solid we could play with!
Puck: Once we had the audio stream into TouchDesigner from the bike there was a fair amount trial and error before settling on using a Spectrum CHOP (and others) to analyse the pitch/hertz from the dynamo giving us our "power up" value which would spin the wheel.
Oliver: At my end, I then took the waveform and massaged the data to control the animation of elements in the scene. I then built a lemur interface to control the management of assets/prizes on the fly, and also control thresholding to either make it easier or harder (depending on contender).
With no time for real testing or debugging, we relied immensely on luck to be able to pull this one off - and it was a great success! We all showed up to the site the night before the event to set up. Puck's rig plugged straight into my laptop (yes we ran it off a laptop) and everything worked a treat. The next day was the event, it busy as all hell, nothing broke, and we all had a great time! This project truly is a tribute to how collaborative, portable and reliable TouchDesigner can be.
Puck: Due to other commitments I wasn't able to make it to the event in Taupo this required the build to be very plug and play - TouchDesigner made this really achievable! Working closely with Oliver (who was on the other side of the island) on the master TouchDesigner project was an awesomely smooth process and after a blur of a week 'making and breaking' we managed to get to mark#05 of the build. It was a great test of working fast under pressure and TouchDesigner came thru like a champ!